The national organization of the Boy Scouts of America is considering a dramatic change in its controversial policy of excluding gay people as Scouts and leaders.
The announcement of the possible change came Monday, leaving it up to local organizations to decide how to address the issue. Under the proposed change, said BSA spokesman Deron Smith, "the Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members or parents," the Associated Press reported.
The policy came under intense scrutiny last year when Moraga Scout Ryan Andresen, 18, was denied his Eagle Scout badge after he had come out to his troop and leaders as gay. Andresen's family organized a petition drive on Change.org, which had 468,902 signatures at 12:20 p.m. Monday. Andresen's Eagle Scout project was planning and creating a 288-tile "tolerance wall" that now decorates a wall at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School in Moraga.
A policy change is long overdue, said Karen Andresen, Ryan Andresen's mother. She credited hard work from Scouts For Equality, GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliances Against Defamation) and Change.org.
As for her son, Karen Andresen wrote in an email, "He can be content knowing that he was intrumental in ending discrimination and making the world a better place. History is being made because of his case, & others, and for this, he is my hero, and a hero to many."
"I hope that the BSA Board does actually approve this change,” stated Eric Andresen of Moraga, Ryan's father, in a news release. “It’s the right thing to do, and would mean so much to Ryan, his mother and our family, and to thousands of other scouts who have been forced into very difficult, emotionally charged situations because of the existing ban."
"The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”
“The Boy Scouts of America have heard from scouts, corporations and millions of Americans that discriminating against gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong,” stated GLAAD President Herndon Graddick, president of GLAAD, in a news release. “Scouting is a valuable institution and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect.”
The backlash against the Boy Scouts has been severe in recent months. On Novato Patch, reader Claire wrote:
"While it is the BSA's right to oppose gay membership, which I respect, it is my right and choice not to support the BSA. If I had a son in the BSA, I would remove him from that influence, because I feel it is wrong to teach my son not to accept gays. Since the BSA receives funding from large corporations, I also chose not to support these corporations, because I don't want to lend any kind of financial support to an organization I don't agree with - even though I do respect their right to their rules and policies."
Novato resident Jay Strauss, an attorney and member of the Novato Planning Commission, is the former mayor of Lafayette and often participated in the swearing in of Eagle Scouts. Earlier this month he wrote:
I am really disappointed in the BSA. Their thinking, I believe, is that they don't want pedophile scoutmasters, but that concern does not support generalized homophobia, especially when turned upon the scouts themselves. Any sort of categorical discrimination is simply un-American — whether racial, religious, ethnic or sexual. True, its not literally unconstitutional unless some form of state action is involved, but it is ALWAYS repugnant. BSA may be 'private' but it is still in this country, and in my view this policy violates the ethical and moral precepts that have made our nation the world leader in the defense of individual rights. BSA's hypocrisy is stunning because it purports to stand for 'honor, duty, etc.' which are so wholly inconsistent with its categorical intolerance.
Keep up with local news — follow Patch
Want to share your opinions with the communities of the Coastside? Start your own blog here.